Trailblazing health, social care, and education project, Liverpool 5G Create, is ripping up the rule book so Liverpool communities can access digitalised public services, even if they can’t afford a reliable internet connection.
The project (funded by, Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport’s £200 million 5G Testbeds and Trials Programme) has built a private, independent 5G network in and around Kensington, Liverpool that combines complementary technologies and uses unlicensed spectrum. This means the team has the capability to run a 5G-supported public sector network independently.
The 5G network is flexible and responsive. It has been tailored to meet the unique needs of people relying on life-changing technologies: with reactive responses to problems, data security, and robustness (provided by the 5G technology). Meanwhile, operating in an unlicensed spectrum allows Liverpool 5G to offer free connectivity to people taking part in the project and using the technologies.
The team’s determination to bring affordable digital solutions to the heart of the community is what led them to develop a new a model for providing digitalised public sector services.
Liverpool 5G Technical Lead and Telet Research’s Technical Marketing Manager, Andrew Miles, explains: The upgrades we’re currently making to our bespoke, 5G ‘network of networks’ means we can offer the same technical capabilities as more commercially orientated organisations: our own backhaul; core; sim; and commercial relationships with other operators, but can be more personally responsive to issues arising from people’s care issues.
“We’ve built the network from scratch, which means we’ve been able tailor it to meet these really specific, really human needs. Liverpool 5G doesn’t have a legacy of connectivity in people’s homes to support (such as 3G technology, which has historically presented a problem), so can look at disruptive new models to what’s currently available in this space.”
The technologies supported by Liverpool 5G’s network are interactive, which means the signal leaving the devices needs to be as strong as the incoming (down link) signal. Traditional 5G mobile networks offer a high speed downlink, via a 5G base station. Liverpool 5G’s network employs 5G small cells, deployed on a mesh network that relies on the proximity of ‘line of sight’ to work efficiently. This is a plus for supporting the kind of public sector technologies the project delivers, which need a power source that delivers the same power as a handset to work efficiently.
A traditional 5G base station wouldn’t be the most effective way to deliver the 5G to the project’s technologies in people’s homes, especially in a dense, urban environment like Kensington. This was another reason for developing a new business model for an agile network that doesn’t require a base station.
However, it isn’t just technology requirements that have necessitated a new business model, as Liverpool 5G’s Project Director, Rosemary Kay, explains: “We knew early on in the project that we needed to develop a new service level agreement that supported the monitoring and delivery of our technologies. Many of the technologies support vulnerable people living independently in the community, so we need to be 100% sure that if sensors detect an older person has fallen, there’s an immediate home visit from a care provider.
“This level of personalised commitment is harder for a purely commercially driven operation to support. Our model is designed with this not-for-profit capability in mind.”